The Best Music of 2010

2010 in music, you guys! If someone made a Girl Talk-type sound collage of all of 2010’s hottest hits, what would it sound like? What songs would be featured? I’m not sure, except that I don’t think very many of our year-end choices would be included.

Because we’re massive elitists, you see.

After the jump, find out what David Simon Cowell and I considered the best albums of the year. Where will Katy Perry rank? How many American Idol finalists will make our top ten? Let’s find out together.

The Dilemma’s Top Ten Albums of the Year

2010 brought a lot of very good albums, but few great ones — which means that it was difficult to whittle my list down to a mere ten albums, but also difficult to pick out one or two that stood above the rest.

10. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Yes, I’m just now discovering Superchunk. Yes, it was tough to leave Kanye off my list. But listen to the album before you judge, OK?

9. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I agree with David Simon Cowell (see below) that this is the third-best of AF’s three albums. It’s too long by at least three songs, and the pacing never feels quite right. But even not at their absolute best, Win Butler and company prove to be one of indie rock’s most thoughtful and gifted bands. And at long last, the best song on an Arcade Fire album belongs to Régine Chassagne.

8. Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing
This album sounds like it belongs in 1974. And like it would have been absolutely fucking massive on FM radio in 1974. Free Energy combines the breeziest parts of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers era with a little KC and the Sunshine Band. Every song on Stuck on Nothing contains an insanely catchy riff, and makes you feel like you should be 17 and driving in a convertible near a beach. This is pop candy of the best kind.

7. Spoon – Transference
Spoon is our most consistent band. (Joe Morgan would love Spoon. And compare them to Dave Concepcion.) As such, it’s easy to take for granted an album like Transference, which finds the band stretching just a little while eschewing the big pop moves of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

6. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
In filling We Were Promised Jetpack’s Scottish quota in the top ten, Frightened Rabbit also runs away with the prize for the year’s best album title. The sprinkling of upbeat pop songs on Drinks are good, but the killers are the slow-burning emotional blowouts like “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and “The Loneliness and the Scream.”

5. Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
While it doesn’t boast any tracks that can complete with the best few songs off of The ’59 Sound, American Slang continues Gaslight Anthem’s forward movement. They’ll always be a straight-up, Springsteen-aping rock band, but they’re working to diversify their sound and their rhythms, and they’re doing so without any real errors in judgment.

4. Vampire Weekend – Contra
This album came out so long ago, it doesn’t even feel like it belongs to 2010 (especially since lead single “Horchata” was released in fall 2009). Vampire Weekend shifted ever so slightly away from Paul Simon’s Graceland, which resulted in stunning songs like “Giving Up the Gun” and “I Think Ur a Contra,” while still sounding exactly like Vampire Weekend.

3. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
If this is LCD’s swan song, it’s a great one. Over time, “Dance Yrself Clean” has revealed itself as the best song on the album, even better than the classic power balladry of “I Can Change.” It’s eight minutes long, it’s not a typical opening track, and it’s disjointed. But it works and it sticks with you.

2. Sleigh Bells – Treats
I don’t know if Sleigh Bells will last. I don’t know if they’ll ever make another decent album (2010’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah?). But this album was great. It’s loud, it’s layered, and it’s the album on this list that comes closest to sounding like something new for this decade.

1. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
I don’t know that this is the best album of the year, but when in doubt, I pick the album that had the most impact on my year as a whole. Titus played the best shows I saw all year. I listened to “A More Perfect Union” more than any other song. And the album shows a reach and ambition that most of the other albums on this list do not. This album is Titus Andronicus’s Separation Sunday — not as great, but as big a step forward from their earlier work. And “Perfect Union” is simple incendiary. (I think you guys producing it yourselves, instead of Glyn Johns, was the right thing to do. And the guitar sound… is incendiary. Incendiary. Way to go.)

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David Simon Cowell’s Top Ten Albums of the Year

In no particular order:

The New Pornographers – Together
A major comeback after the horrible Challengers…a good, solid New Pornographers album is always going to rank highly for me.

MGMT – Congratulations
Thought this was treated pretty harshly by the press. Not as good as their debut, but also quite different and interesting — it’s good to see them stretching, hopefully they’ll stick with it.

Treme Soundtrack
I know, but there’s enough new stuff to warrant its inclusion. I know, it includes an awful Steve Zahn anti-Bush song that almost induces suicide. Other than that, though…

The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Though my least favorite of their albums, it still has its moments.

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Gets a bump because of their awesome live shows, though said shows have some disturbing nationalistic undertones, even if it isn’t the band’s fault. Still, this album fucking rocked.

Kanye West –  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Would be a contender if I had to choose an Album of the Year. With all his faults, both sonically and personally, it’s clear that Kanye is working on a whole ‘nother level. Not everything he does works but it’s never terrible, and when it hits its pretty close to genius.

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
See also: the New Pornographers write-up.

Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing
A great summer album… poppy, fun, dopey at times, but endlessly listenable.

Girl Talk – All Day
See also: Kanye West write-up. Plus, yeah, I know the mix-up thing is gimmicky, but some of his combinations are incredible and change the entire way you hear the original songs forever. And, yeah, it’s different than writing your own songs, but I don’t think
it’s any less creative or artistic.

Eminem – Recovery
My other album of the year contender. For me, 2010’s two most interesting artists were Eminem and Kanye, and I think both of their albums are among their best. Em comes right out and apologizes for Encore and Relapse. While it doesn’t get anybody their money back, it’s nice that he’s seen the error and adjusted. He’s still devastating when he’s on his game.

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The Dilemma’s Ten Great 2010 Songs That Didn’t Come From Any of the Above Albums

1. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists/One Polaroid a Day

2. The Drive-By Truckers/The Fourth Night of My Drinking

3. Japandroids/Younger Us

4. Big Boi/Shutterbug

5. Janelle Monai/Tightrope

6. Yeasayer/Ambling Alp

7. Hot Chip/Thieves in the Night

8. Mynabirds/What We Gained in the Flood

9. Robyn/Cry When You Get Older

10. Girls/Carolina

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Filed under David Simon Cowell, Music Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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